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Saturday, March 30, 2013

THE ELECTRIC GUITAR AND BASS BRIDGES: FIXED BRIDGES


Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we're going to talk about Guitar and Bass Non-Tremolo bridges, commonly knows as Fixed Bridges (Click Here for an article dedicated to Tremolo and Floyd Rose Bridges).
The general rule is that fixed bridges offers a better transmission of the sound from the strings to the body, due to the direct contact of the part to the wood, and this improves sustain and stability.
The fixed bridge is screwed directly to the guitar body, and it obviously blocks completely any longitudinal string movement, assuring the best tuning stability.
There are no springs on the body, therefore there is not even the cavity to accomodate them, and this also increases the sound resonance, if the Wood used is good.

Let's start off by saying that a fixed bridge is, especially on entry level guitars, the best way to ensure a proper tuning, even with non-exceptional machine heads, but it's also important its role in keeping stable the pitch of the strings while we are performing a bending, since on tremolo bridges, if we bend a string, the five remaining will slighly lower their tuning for the time of the bending (and this can be noticed if we accidentally play a second string while bending one).
The downside of fixed bridges is easy to spot: being fixed they are limiting to the expressivity of the guitar; with a Tremolo bridge are achievable many more sounds than the ones we can obtain with a fixed one.

Today there are many fixed bridge models on the market, since they are easier to create and produce, so many manufacturers through the years came out with their own interpretation of the subject. 
We will analize the six most common and distinctive models:

Gibson Tune o'Matic: this is probably the most common fixed bridge used, and was introduced by Gibson in 1954. The bridge (also known as Stoptail) consists in two parts: the Tune o'Matic itself, which is a metallic bar that contains a saddle for each string, which can be adjusted to reach the perfect octave intonation according to the guitar's tuning, and a second bar called Tailpiece, which is the headlong of the strings: strings are inserted here, passed through the saddles and then fasten to the guitar's headstock. It's important to say that on the original Tune o' Matic bridge the saddles were not adjustable, this feature appeared only on the bridge's second version: the Modern Tune o'Matic.

Ibanez Gibraltar: this is an interesting bridge that had many different models on its story: Gibraltar Standard, Gibraltar plus, Gibraltar III and so on, but basically it's not too different from a Gibson's Tune o'Matic: there are saddles adjustable for the intonation, but also for their height (affecting the height of the strings on the fretboard), and in some model this bridge also have the strings running through the body (see Strings through body bridge). Gibraltar bridges are also featured on Ibanez Basses.

Telecaster Ashtray: this very particular kind of bridge, featured on Fender Telecaster, consists in a large metallic square surrounding the bridge pickup, and on this square, that resembles an ashtray (therefore the name) are mounted the strings. This leads to a more metallic tone than the Stratocaster's one, since the string were resonating not only on the body but also on this metallic plate, and this tone is particularly appreciated by country music players, which loves to find a far resemblance of a banjo tone on their guitar sound.

Strings through body bridge: this kind of bridge is used by many manufacturers (such as Ibanez or Schecter) and basically consists into mounting the tailpiece into the BACK of the guitar's body: the strings are inserted into the back of the body and emerge before the Tune o'Matic; from there they get the right intonation and are sent to the headstock. This solution is very interesting because the guitar or bass will have even more sustain, since the strings will touch the body and resonate through it. In my opinion, when possible, this is the best choice as a fixed bridge. Notice: only long scale strings can be mounted on this kind of guitar, or the string tension will be higher.

Wraparound bridge: this type of bridge is similiar to a Stoptail one, but instead of having a Tune o'Matic piece and a separated Tailpiece, it features both parts on a single metallic bar. It is featured on Paul Reed Smith guitars, and some player believes that reducing the points of contact between strings and body can improve the tone, because more string energy is transferred to the guitar body.

Evertune bridge: mounted only on Vgs guitars at the moment, this bridge is much more complex than the others: each saddle is connected to a spring on the back of the body, so that once you set the bridge to the right tuning and the right intonation, it will never get out of tune (this means that even if you bend a string the pitch won't change!!), but you can lock or unlock individually the single strings, so that it's possible to have the lower strings with a fixed tuning, and the higher strings  free to be bent.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

THE WET/DRY/WET TRICK (a guide for dummies)


Hello and welcome to this week's tutorial! Today we're going to talk about an interesting technique used by some famous producer, which can be easily replied on our DAW, and that allows us to apply an effect on a track, mantaining all the clarity and the transient of the original sound.
The Wet/Dry/Wet trick it's a variation of the Parallel Processing system (also known as the New York Trick), but the Parallel processing is used mainly for Compression, while this technique is more suited to effect a track with a Delay or similar effects, and it's best suited for a central guitar (such a Lead Guitar), for a Snare Drum or for Vocals

How does it work? 
We have to create TWO mono FX Tracks, (instead of just one, as it happens with Parallel Processing), and to Pan them as much as you want in the stereo field, one left and one right (that's why we need a central instrument).
Now we must load on these two tracks the same effect, for example a Delay and select the amount of effect to be fed on the fx send of out track on a pretty low level: it has to be heard but it must not completely cover our original sound; Equalize the effect track, if needed, to select the frequency range to affect: usually the area that benefits most of Delay is the one that goes from 150hz to 2000hz, if we effect too much the low end, it's gonna become muddy and resonant.

Now comes into play the reason why we created two tracks instead of one: we're going to apply different settings on the two Delays.
This really goes according to the taste, but if they're tempo synced we can for example switch the rhythm of one of them into a polyrhythm (e.g. 5/4), or we can set one delay on quarter notes and one on eight notes, and so on. 
Once we have achieved a thick, interesting double layer of delay, it's time to regulate the right amount of effect to feed to our track: remember that our aim is to keep the original dry sound loud and clear and just to apply, underneath, the effect tail, to give it that cutting through, professional, non-soaked effected feel that can be heard on the best productions. 

Hope this was useful :)

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

GUITAR AND BASS FRETS AND FRETBOARDS! types and specs


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to talk about Frets! Frets are the raised element of a guitar or bass fretboard, and are made of pieces of a metal strip, inserted on "rails" carved directly on the fingerboard.
Frets are a creation of the first half of 18th century, since until that moment string instruments were  all "fretless", like the violin: there was no separation on the fingerboard, and the right intonation was completely up to the player's ear.
In order to make music instruments more popular even among those who didn't have a perfect ear  or didn't want to undertake an academic musical training, the luthiers started dividing the fingerboard in separated parts, each one representing a semitone, respecting the standard western system where each octave is divided in twelve semitones.
To make even easier to find the right note were also introduced Fret Marks, in order to create a viewing reference point for the player, not differently from the black and white keys on a piano.

Today there are different kinds of frets, created to meet the needs of all kinds of players.
We should choose the right type of frets according to our playing style and to how much we want to touch the fretboard when playing (someone prefers not even to touch it, and that's why Scalloped Guitars were created, click here for a dedicated article).

Here's the main type of guitar frets (dimensions may vary according to the various manufacturers, though):

- Short Frets (height: .037", width: 0.80"): were used mainly on vintage Fender guitars, and let the string really to drag into the fingerboard.

- Medium Jumbo Frets (height: .036", width: .106"): those are the standard on Gibson guitars and on many other modern guitars, and represent a good compromise between intonation, wearing and playability.

- Jumbo Frets (height: .046", width: .103"): these are the standard on modern Fender models, and are wide about the same as a Medium Jumbo, but a bit taller, to reduce the string friction on the fretboard and to ease bendings. The general rule is: the bigger the frets, the longer the sustain.

- Super Jumbo Frets (height: .058", width: .118"): this kind of frets are mounted on some Ibanez guitar, for example, and gives to the freatbord an almost Scalloped feeling, without the need to carve out the wood. These frets are chosen mainly by shredder guitarists.


And here's the various types of fretboards:

- Standard Fretboard: it's the classic fretboard, featured on 99% of guitars, with 21, 22, 24... up to 27 straight frets, with the intonation regulated mainly on the guitar bridge.



- Fanned Fretboard:  it's a particular positioning of the frets that is created to accomodate better alternative tunings and composed string gauges, without having them for example too flabby on the lower strings. It is also said to keep tuning better.



- True Temperament Fretboard: this weird fretboard is created to optimize the intonation of the guitar: when pressing on the fretboard, the frets creates a sort of inevitable bending, and by using this kind of curved frets, the "bending" leads to a more accurate precision on the note, improving also the sustain.



- Fretless Fingerboard: fretless fingerboards are using mainly on Basses, making them more similiar to a Contrabass, but are sometimes seen on Guitars too (for a while Gibson produced a serie called "Fretless Wonder", with frets so small they were almost invisible); those instruments are more suited for techniques sliding, but the fingerboard obvioulsy wears out much faster due to the stronger string friction.





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Sunday, March 10, 2013

MODULATIONS PART 6: VOCODER! (with Free Vst plugins inside!!)



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
This tutorial is to be considered as an expansion of the Autotune article, since it shares with this the same basic concepts, but the Vocoder is a little different:
Vocoder is the contraction of the two words "voice encoder", and it consists into an algorhitm that takes a sound (usually a voice) and processes it throug a synth, basically morphing it and tuning it on the note chosen by the player, with a keyboard, or writing it on a piano roll Automation (click here for an article about automations).

This effect has been widely used throughout the '70s and '80 by the first electronic music bands, such as Kraftwerk or Giorgio Moroder, and by some progressive rock band as the Alan Parsons Project, and today the effect is used to give a voice the typical metallic sound of that time.

A Vocoder can be programmed almost the same way an Autotune can be:
First we need to create an audio track, which will contain the Vocals we want to effect, then we load into this track's insert the Vst Vocoder.
At this point we'll need to create a midi track, choosing the Vocoder as output.
Now we can draw on the midi piano roll of this track the notes we want our voice to go through, or we can play them in real time with a midi keyboard.


Here are some cool Vst Vocoder downloadable for free:

Tal Vocoder - an interesting vintage sounding Vocoder

Voctopus - 8 band real time Vocoder with built in synth

Braindoc Lpc Vocoder - a Linear Predicting Coding Vocoder

Vocovee - a real time Vocoder


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Saturday, March 2, 2013

REVIEW: IBANEZ ARZ 800!


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today I'm gonna review one of my guitars, bought in december 2011 and present in the 2012 catalog, the Ibanez Arz800.

What I needed was a long scale neck (25" x 24 frets), in order to be able to lower the tuning without making the strings too flabby, a body not excessively thick and heavy (this body is 40mm thick, like a Stratocaster, unlike the original Gibson Les Paul, which is 60mm thick), and finally I needed a great quality-to-price ratio.

This guitar isn't exactly a Gibson clone, it's has more things in common with the Paul Reed Smith Singlecut, due to its reduced thickness and for the increased accessibily on the higher frets, as depicted on this image:


The neck is a set neck type, with a 24 jumbo frets rosewood fretboard, while the top is Quilted Maple with a dark transparent black lacquer, so that the maple is visible but through a dark transparency, and the binding also is black, as we can see from the pictures. 


Also the guitar comes with a couple of Emg Active pickups: the Emg 81 on the bridge, the 60 on the neck, and the bridge is a fixed Tight Tune bridge, which is a very steady Ibanez Version of the Gibson Tune o'Matic bridge.




Tech Specs taken from the Ibanez website:

Neck Material: 3pc Mahogany/ Maple
Neck Type: ARZ set-in
Body: Mahogany body/ Quilted Maple top
Frets: Medium frets
Fingerboard: Bound Rosewood
Bridge: Tight Tune bridge
Neck PU: EMG® 60
Bridge PU: EMG® 81
HW Color: dark silver
Finishes: Transparent Deep Black, Transparent Deep Red

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